by Shannon Everest, Australia
When I was growing up, just like others I had certain experiences that really shook me up, and whilst some appeared very small and insignificant, others were quite big and significant to me. My fall-back to such experiences was to harden and take on more of a ‘boyishness’ in an effort to hide the loveliness of the young girl who was growing into a woman.
One experience I had was at the age of 13; my girlfriends and I were going out to a pizza restaurant. It was my first evening dinner out without my parents and so I was really looking forward to it. My grandmother, a great seamstress, helped me design a cute outfit – a black pleated skirt, worn with stockings, a white blouse, a little black jacket and black shoes to match. I got ready that night feeling amazing. But when I got to the restaurant I could feel and was met with jealousy and comparison from my friends, since they were dressed completely differently in brand named T-shirts and shorts. I could feel how in my outfit that I really stood out and appeared very ‘different’.
At the time I did not really understand all the reactions, and my own response to this evening in which I felt extremely uncomfortable was to then keep a part of myself hidden. I made a decision to conform to whatever my peers were wearing, and I began to dress more like a boy – with similar T-shirts and denim shorts which came from looking out to what I thought the ‘accepted’ level of dress code was, and making sure that it was keeping in line with my peers.
This decision filtered through into my life. After the boyish phase came the ‘hippy’ phase, wearing clothing that came from op shops and second hand stores. Everything was previously used or had a ‘certain look’, and so once again I had discovered another way to ‘blend in’ with my peers and to not ‘stand out’. I found it pretty hard to look lovely when dressing in such a way, so once again my mission to hide was achieved.
During that phase of dressing in second hand clothes with a certain ‘hippy’ look, I would often crave to buy different clothes. Sometimes I even would buy things that I really liked and then not let myself wear them. I felt with my friends that if I were to break out of ‘that look’ and wear what I really wanted, which was a far more conservative or ‘smart’ way of dressing, that they would think, ‘Who are you?’ And so I continued to keep myself hidden in that chosen clothing style.
I had also discovered that if I dressed in such a way I would avoid getting male attention. And if I avoided getting such attention then I would also avoid getting, or being, hurt. There were layers to this hurt – on the one hand I was avoiding any other man being interested in me because of a previous earlier relationship that had ended in rejection (in favour of another woman), and on the other hand it was mostly about the rejection I felt whenever I did show my loveliness, that I felt like I was received (by the man) as being more of a ‘sexual object’.
When I started to attend Universal Medicine workshops and courses it had such a simple but powerful effect upon my life; I began to feel how much, and for how long, holding back and hiding away the loveliness I felt inside of me was hurting me. I found myself finally being able to begin to let go of all those ideas of how I should look and dress, that had me conforming with those around me and only covered the beautiful woman I had grown to become. Wow! How much effort it had taken me to actually do this and to keep my expression pushed down, buried and hidden away.
So I began to dress how I felt to dress. At first it was still a bit modest, but my change could still be felt by others. People who had known me would comment (often not in ways that would be supportive) on my changes, but now I had a sense of confidence that supported me. I started to experiment with make-up, slowly building up a collection and playing with ways of applying that did not really conform to how it should be applied! I discovered how much fun it was to get my hair cut, to try new styles, to get a fringe, to play with hair-drying and hair-straighteners. To also have fun with jewellery and earrings, scarves and various colours – the possibilities were endless!
The interesting thing is that there were (and still are) so many layers and ingrained ways of being that had been compounded over the many years. And that, after years of over-riding my natural expression in regards to the way I dress, I am still discovering pockets of where I try to ‘dress-down’ to ‘not stand out’. Having said that, nothing can compare to the absolute joy I have and feel in embracing who I am – now in the simplest of ways.